Trump’s education positions surfaced in the Republican rebuttal to Biden’s speech, delivered Wednesday night by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who said, “Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries’ did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe. But too often, powerful grown-ups set science aside. And kids like me were left behind. The clearest case I’ve seen for school choice in our lifetime is because we know that education is the closest thing to magic in America.”
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., delivers the Republican response to President Joe Biden's speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Washington. (Senate Television via AP)
As former President Barack Obama often did in his speeches to the nation, Biden cited education research, noting studies show two years of universal, high-quality preschool better positions children to graduate high school and enroll in a postsecondary institution.
“When you add two years of free community college on top of that, you begin to change the dynamic. We can do that. And we’ll increase Pell Grants and invest in historical Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges, minority serving institutions. The reason is, they don’t have the endowments,” said Biden.
The president referenced the classroom experience of his wife, Jill Biden, saying, “Jill is a community college professor who teaches today as first lady. She’s long said — if I heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, ‘Joe, any country that out-educates us is going to outcompete us.’”
The president’s focus on public education rankled choice advocates. “While we salute the aspiration to create the ‘best-educated generation in U.S. history,’ this goal can come about only if students have access to schools that work for them,” said Jeanne Allen, the founder and chief executive of the Center for Education Reform, in a statement. “Instead, the Biden Administration wants to issue a blank check to institutions that have failed the vast majority of students attending them.”
But Biden’s comments impressed public school advocates, including Raymond Pierce, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation. “President Biden laid out an uplifting, hopeful, and common-sense approach to advancing equity in the United States by making necessary investments in high-quality, accessible childcare, in high-quality, accessible education from pre-k through community college, and in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities that develop leaders like Vice President Kamala Harris, former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Congressman John Lewis, and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams.”